Is it Enough to be a Naturally Skilled Leader?


Some people are born leaders. But directing the other kids on the playground is very different to managing a team in the workplace.

Being great at your job does not equal being a great people manager or leader. Yet many organisations still adhere to the philosophy of promoting employees to management positions based on technical skills instead of people skills – and that’s a problem.

Depending on your industry and the requirements of leaders in your business, technical skills may or may not be crucial. But the necessity for strong communication abilities, empathy, organisational skills and logistical awareness are universal, and often more important than knowing the ins and outs of how the machine works.

You could be as competent as Gandalf when he’s guiding Frodo through Middle Earth, but there are very few people born with every skill and quality of a great leader. Most people will have gaps in their management abilities. These need to be addressed if your organisation is to thrive. You can’t just hide behind your magic staff and impressive facial hair!


Qualities of a natural born leader

We’ve seen it happen all too often: a leadership opportunity arises, someone is performing well in their current role (and/or is simply in the right place at the right time) and gets the promotion.

Suddenly, they’re leading a team of people without any formal management training. At best, they hold the fort adequately. At worst, they actively drive employees to seek new opportunities elsewhere.

They likely have some qualities of a natural leader. These can include:

  • Charisma

  • Confidence

  • Energy

  • Attention to detail

  • Good work ethic.

And while these are all important characteristics, they are often raw and underdeveloped and come without the finesse and awareness that education brings.

With many management roles being filled by people without formal training specific to leading others (a topic explored on The Conversation), it comes as no surprise that 75% of working Australians agree our workplaces need better management and leadership.

 So, what is it that these natural born leaders are missing by not officially upping their skills?

Learned qualities of a good leader

Sure, you can be a born leader. But this doesn’t automatically mean you’re a good leader. Leadership is a skill, and many key qualities of an effective leader don’t come naturally. These qualities might include:

  • Inclusivity and empathy

  • Self-awareness

  • Strong communication skills

  • Strategic thinking

  • Decisiveness

  • Authenticity and trustworthiness.

Think you can lead effectively without learning these skills? Think again. In our whitepaper, Leadership in the Age of Disruption, our research shows that employees and employers agree strong communication skills (41%) and authenticity and trustworthiness (36%) are the most important characteristics of a successful leader.

While these qualities may not come naturally, they can be learned.

Leadership and management courses online

Thanks to the many online leadership and management courses and modules, anyone with a computer and a Wi-Fi connection can improve their skillset (seriously, just use the free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s and treat yourself to a cheeseburger).

Online courses are available through Australian Registered Training Organisations such as Upskilled, offering certificates and diplomas in leadership and management over the course of 12-18 months.

For something a little more fast-tracked, WorkSmart offers leadership training in bite-sized modules, spanning topics from mindfulness and mindset to conscious conversations.

There are plenty of online courses and modules available, so you’re bound to find something that suits you or your employees.

You know who isn’t such a great leader? Frank Underwood from House of Cards. Find out why he’s a great example of what not to do in our Lessons in Leadership from Frank Underwood. Spoiler alert: it’s because he doesn’t possess the learned qualities of a good leader and needs to read this article.

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